Hurricane-force winds, dust storm in the Upper Midwest

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A severe storm complex roared across the Upper Midwest on Thursday evening, unleashing destructive wind gusts over 100 mph while stirring up a towering wall of dust.

The National Weather Service has received more than 200 reports of damaging winds from Kansas to Wisconsin – but the most severe damage has been concentrated in a swath from eastern Nebraska to southwest Minnesota, including eastern South Dakota and northwestern Iowa. Extensive structural damage was reported in this area and around 70,000 people were without power Thursday evening.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that one person was killed after a grain silo fell on a car in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, about 85 miles west of the Twin Cities.

The dust cloud swept away by the storm produced scenes reminiscent of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. dizzying 65 to 85 mph, turning day into night.

Producing widespread damage along an extended track, the storm complex met the criteria for a derecho – the weather term for an arcuate, fast-moving line of severe storms whose damage can be comparable to a hurricane. .

The most extreme gust of wind of the evening – 107 mph – was clocked in Hutchinson County, SD, which is about 50 miles west of Sioux Falls.

Other top bursts included:

  • 102 mph in Deuel County, SD
  • 97 mph at Madison, SD
  • 96 mph at Wentworth, SD
  • 94 mph in Madison, Minnesota.
  • 90 mph at Huron, SD
  • 89 mph at Ord, Neb.
  • 80 mph in Artichoke, Minn.
  • 79 mph in Graceville, Minnesota.
  • 75 mph in Canby, Minnesota.

As of 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the weather service’s storm forecast center had received 55 reports of winds blowing in excess of 74 mph. second most recorded for a calendar day. The record holder for the most gusts over 74 mph happened less than six months ago: December 15, 2021.

Historic windstorm hits central US, triggers rare tornadoes in December

The weather service also issued numerous tornado warnings due to small rotational areas embedded in the arcing storm complex. Only two tornadoes were confirmed as of 9:30 p.m. – one of which damaged two homes and the north side of a school in Castlewood, SD, about 80 miles north of Sioux Falls.

Reports to the weather service said the strong derecho winds uprooted trees, downed wires, flattened fences, blew shingles and even blew entire roofs off in some cases. Many sheds and barns were destroyed.

The weather service also received several reports of overturned tractor-trailers; in Holt County, Neb., one person was injured.

The Weather Service had highlighted the hardest hit areas by declaring a risk of severe thunderstorms level 4 out of 5 on Thursday morning, then issued a severe thunderstorm watch “particularly dangerous situation” in the afternoon, reserved for the most severe thunderstorm potential.

Record heat fuels severe storms in central US

As the storms approached, it issued dire warnings that triggered wireless emergency alerts. Warnings called for winds of 80 to 100 mph as the storms headed northeast. In a warning for parts of west-central Minnesota, the Twin Cities Weather Service office wrote, “THESE ARE DAMAGING THUNDERSTORMS,” noting they could produce winds of 100 mph. “You are in a life-threatening situation,” the warning read.

The event was in some ways reminiscent of the Iowa derecho of August 2020, the costliest storm disaster in US history.

The storm complex was fed by a sprawling heat dome responsible for setting records from Texas to Maine. The warmest temperatures – compared to normal – have been concentrated in the Upper Midwest. The thunderstorms broke out as this warm air met much cooler air from the northwest.

As with the severe thunderstorms and tornado outbreaks in December, the intensity of this event raises questions about the possible role of human-induced climate change. The December outbreaks were also fueled by record temperatures that climate change makes more likely.

December tornadoes aren’t uncommon, but the four-state outbreak was something entirely different

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